A Melbourne Institute has a Worker Paper series, and study published in 2016, found that the optimal performance of people who are more than 40 years old, can be improved significantly by having a work week of only three days. The study was conducted by University of Melbourne’s Institute for Applied economics & Social research. The study analyzed the work habits of 3000 men and 3500 women using a number of cognitive tests. The tests included reciting number lists backward, reading text aloud and matching numbers and letters within a specified time period.
Other factors like the economic condition, employment, quality of life and family structure were also considered by the researchers. It was observed that people who worked for 25 hours weekly on an average performed best. The cognitive performance would improve till people reached the 25 hours weekly work hour mark. After this it was noticed that there was a decline in the scores for cognitive tests, mainly because of fatigue and stress.
For both men and women, the study results indicate that the impact of increasing the working hours on their cognitive ability is positive till the working hours increase to a specified period. After that increasing the working hours further will usually have a negative effect on their cognitive ability. Many would like to find out the threshold when effect of working longer changes from positive to negative. The cognitive ability of men and women were measured using cerebral dysfunction and memory span. It was observed that working for 25 to 30 hours weekly had a positive impact on the cognition of men, and working 22 to 27 hours weekly had a similar impact for women. The study indicated that working for longer periods would adversely affect the cognitive function.
Keio University’s economics professor , Colin Mckenzie participated in this research study. He noted that a large number of countries are likely to increase their retirement age, to increase the age at which employees become eligible to receive pension and related benefits. As a result, more people will have to continue working, even at a later stage in their life. The extent of the intellectual stimulation depends on the working hours for the person. There are both advantages and disadvantages of working for long hours. Working can stimulate the brain. However, people should be aware that working for long hours, and completing certain types of tasks, will cause fatigue, stress, which adversely affect the cognitive ability of the person.
He wished to point that it is important to ensure that there should be differences in the working hours for individuals who are elderly or middle aged. For persons who are middle aged or older, working part time can help to maintain cognitive functioning.
Additionally, the economics professor at Management School of Lancaster University, Geraint Johnes commented that the cognitive ability of the workers improved when the workers were working for 25 hours a week, after which a decline was noticed. Initially the decline in the cognitive ability is not very noticeable, it can be neglected even if the working hours increase to 35 hours a week. After working for more than 40 hours weekly, the decline in cognitive functioning is far more rapid. Hence if a person is not careful, they may overwork due to the increased work load. Ultimately the longer work hours will adversely affect the brain and the body.
Hence if a person who is overworked does not slow down, he will face many problems like:
– Tiredness and insomnia
– Feel depressed
– May choose to use addictive substances like drugs or alcohol to relax
– Reduced productivity despite working for a longer period of time
– Experience pain in the various parts of the body, and the eyes may also start burning
– This can also adversely affect the personal relationships with other family members and friends
Hence after considering the above factors, France has made it illegal for businesses to send emails to their employees after the specified work hours. A number of scientists have claimed that it is necessary to balance work and other activities in life so that a person remains mentally and physically healthy. For this it may be necessary for businesses to modify the working hours weekly based on the age and gender of their employees.